Prabir Mukherjee (left) and MS Dhoni were involved in a controversy in 2012 © AFP
Prabir Mukherjee (left) and MS Dhoni were involved in a controversy in 2012 © AFP

Former chief curator of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), Prabir Mukherjee passed away at the age of 86. Mukherjee, who passed away on Tuesday night, was suffering from a liver condition and other age-related problems for some time. He remained in charge of the pitches and the ground at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata for nearly 25 years. Displeased with the way he was treated by CAB on many occasions, Mukherjee’s last wish was not to take his body to the CAB premises for people to pay their last respect, as it was been a tradition in Kolkata’s cricket community for distinguished personalities. Mukherjee had joined CAB after retiring as an accounts officer with the South Eastern Railway. Read: Eden Gardens to have new drinking water vendor from IPL 2017

According to Wisden, a family member informed that the veteran curator was not happy with the way he was treated by CAB. In October, the washed out T20 match between India and South Africa saw CAB bosses laying the blame on Mukherjee.

Mukherjee was caught in a controversy during the India versus England Test in 2012, which the hosts lost by 7 wickets. The curator went against Indian captain MS Dhoni’s demand of a spin-friendly wicket. Mukherjee went against the protocol; spoke at length with the local and national media following which he left for a sick leave in protest. He returned soon, and prepared a track that had some grass and bounce on the opening day. Read – Eden Gardens controversy: Prabir Mukherjee unfazed by N Srinivasan’s comments

He was involved in cricket since 1952, after his days as a football goalkeeper as well as a fast bowler ended in a road accident. He was introduced to pitch-making by former head coach of CAB, Karthik Bose. Mukherjee remained a part of CAB and the manager of Bengal as well as East Zone teams in 1979.
Mukherjee was in charge of the 1987 World Cup final as well as the infamous 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka.

His body, however, was not taken to Eden Gardens in a departure of the tradition followed in the city’s cricket fraternity to honour his last wish, Pranay said. “He was severely depressed and would tell me the way he was ‘ill-treated’ despite serving 28 years at the Eden. ‘Please never take me there’,” Pranay told PTI.

The veteran curator, who was involved with the Eden Gardens pitch for more than two decades including preparing the wicket for the 1987 World Cup final, had vowed not to return to the stadium after being blamed for the India-South Africa T20 International washout fiasco on October 8, 2015. ALSO READ: Prabir Mukherjee passes away: Twitter reactions

Even more than six hours after it had rained in the afternoon, the CAB groundsmen led by Mukherjee could not get the field ready and the third and final T20 was also called off as South Africa had swept the series 2-0. During that time, Sourav Ganguly was the president-designate of CAB, who had squarely blamed the veteran curator for not covering the entire ground during the afternoon’s showers that left the field soggy. “I never worked for money. I have told them (CAB officials) that I’m not coming back to the Eden again,” the snubbed Mukherjee had said and since then the CAB grounds including that of the Eden was managed by Sujan Mukherjee.

However, the CAB officials including joint secretary Subir Ganguly and treasurer Biswarup Dey visited his residence on Prankrishna Mukherjee road near Tala Bridge and paid their last tributes. In his condolence message, CAB joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya, the BCCI chairman of New Area Development Committee who’s away in Guwahati, said, “Prabirda’s contribution to Bengal cricket has been immense. He was not only involved with the Eden but various grounds across the state loved him a lot. They formed a close team and worked in tandem. He had also offered his serviceS in Dhaka (in 1998). It’s a sad day for Bengal cricket,” Avishek added.

No cricket curator has been in the news like Mukherjee who stood firm on his principles, be it against the most successful Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni or former English captain-turned-commentator Michael Atherton.

Mukherjee had lost his daughter a few years back and within months his wife passed away but such was his unflinching commitment towards his state association that within days he was back to prepare pitches for the CAB knockout matches.

A fast bowler, who was also a football goalkeeper in the 1940s, Mukherjee became involved with cricket in 1952 after his playing days ended following a road accident. He started out from the Suburban Club before being elected the secretary of Bengal National Railways Club in 1964, CAB veteran and stadium committee chairman Chitrak Mitra recollected.

Kartik Bose, the then chief coach of the CAB, had introduced him to pitch-making as he was in-charge of the 1987 World Cup final wicket. He returned to the Eden after Jagmohan Dalmiya brought him back after the infamous World Cup semifinal in 1996.